This contemporary narrative quilt tells the story of caring for my mother while she was dying of lung and brain cancer.
Every quilt has a motif. This quilt alternates between scenes from train windows as I traveled back and forth between Chicago, Illinois and Trenton, Michigan. The constant back and forth and social isolation of being hundreds of miles from my "real" life served as an emotional backdrop to the experience.
The day I hid the knives in the oven
My mom didn't recognize that her hands were a part of her body, and she tried to cut her fingers off with a steak knife.
My mom went through fixed action patterns where she would try to act out her old routines in new ways, often for hours at a time. Once, she used the coffee pot to water her cane and my sister's diaper stash much like she would have watered her plants. Here, she unscrewed all the lightbulbs in her kitchen and tried to fry them like eggs in a pan.
My mom had a 16-year-old cat with arthritis and hyperthyroidism. A few months before she died, Mom could no longer do Maizy's meds because she couldn't tell her cats apart. Or she would forget that she'd already done Maizy's meds and do them again...and again. I took Maizy with me back to Chicago to keep her safe, and Mom told everyone I stole her cat. Maizy died two weeks after Mom.
The first time I shaved my mom's head, she was terrified it would hurt. She didn't understand how hair worked anymore.
At the very end of my mom's life, when she was decomposing but still breathing, our days revolved around changing her diapers, changing her sheets, changing her clothes, and dealing with her smells. Our individual relationships with her were replaced by a communal relationship with her genitals. It was during this final phase in caring for her body that I discovered that my mom and I had identical moles.
In the days after my mom died, the hospital bed sat in her living room waiting to be picked up by the medical supply company. It had absorbed all her smells, as well as the smells her body made after she died and before the funeral home came to get her. The two cats who were still living with her when she died would sit on the bed and roll around in the stinking indent her body had left.
Note: Those two cats, Lucy and Lola, were re-homed with my sister. They are doing well.
One for the team
acrylic, magazine letters, and team spirit on canvas